“Pain is temporary. Quitting lasts forever.”
And as anyone who has fallen in love can testify, forever is very temporary.
I’ve quit on a lot of things: Chess, Rubik’s cubes, Guitar, public speaking, Books, relationships, jobs, low-waist pants and so much more I can’t even remember. My adolescence, much like the adult-life that followed, was a pretentious lark.
The primary goal of adulthood is to yield you into settling on a string of choices — work, city, marriage, children: Societal BDSM. Once you finally settle, life finally begins its process of unsettling you. It’s called growth. The process is complex, agonizing, and overstrung – beginning and ending at the same question:
“When [exactly] do I quit?”
The struggle with quitting is not when as much as why. It’s the reasons for quitting that are most often misplaced. Regret is often a function of purpose than time.
Although I am not qualified to write about most things I write here, I have, of which I made an impressive show already, established my authority in calling it quits. So, sit back, relax, and pull your head out of your navel. Your salvation for today is on me.
Boredom: This is the most brain-shit idea in the quitting world. And the most common. It’s the part people leave out when they talk about passion, purpose, puppies, and dousing your love life with flammable jewelry to bring back the spark in the relationship. Behind the vapid inspiration of all these messages is boredom. Deep, dark, and dulling monotony.
The whole idea of finding something (or someone) you love is to give your boredom some meaning. The whole inspirational boondoggle around finding a purpose has subsumed the larger idea of what happens after you find your elusive purpose. Here’s what happens: large swaths of boredom, exhaustion, and boredom filled exhaustion. Fulfillment, meaning, and happiness are stuffed into whatever space is left.
There’s this theory about how relationships are truly tested during the most difficult times. Because, you know, only a monster will be playing Animal Crossing when you are crying about your dying dog. A good boyfriend on the other hand will fake sadness. The real test for your relationship (and anything you love) happens when things get boring. The test is whether you are still able to find fulfillment, meaning, and happiness on the most boring days.
If your creative pursuit, your relationship, and the purpose of your existence wilt at the slightest hint of boredom, all your life is going to be spent escaping boredom. But boredom will travel with you in all your escapes. To do something to escape boredom is like staying drunk so you don’t have to crave for a drink. There will come a time when your boredom starts to emanate off you like bad breath.
You will bore into people’s souls – like I did each time I played the guitar – with the dead passion with which you have been pursuing something. I wasn’t bored. But I had no love for the thing. I only stuck on because quitting would make me look like a loser. That’s a good time to quit. That’s not boredom, that’s the inability to feel. To love.
Boredom is an effect rather than the cause. You are not quitting because you are bored as much as quitting because you’d like a new sense of hope. The same hope that got you to where you are now. Your hopelessness.
Boredom is the unsexy reality that’s most of your life. It is the other name for acceptance.
I will never be so good: I kinda already know I am not going to make even the slightest of dents with all the stuff I am writing here. I am not being negative as much as trying to tell you that isn’t the goal. Every time I read a good book, there’s a part of me that becomes overcast with the feeling that I will never be able to write something like that. That feeling is pervasive with all creativity.
Writer’s block isn’t about the paralysis of writing, but about the paralysis of not being good enough.
If you give up because people are better than you, you are an idiot. If you quit because you will never be that good, your envy is greater than your love. There’s a nobility to finding your passion and letting it kill you. But to have envy kill off your passion is a trauma from which your passion will never recover.
(I want to draw no more fruity analogies to relationships here because the premise of every relationship is the understanding that you will never be half as good as each other’s expectations and nothing I say here is going to stop you from expecting that someday she’ll start appreciating your Holmesian ability to not store up useless facts like she’s got peanut allergies.)
You can become really good at what you are doing and still never good enough. But what should keep you going is the fact that there’s so much else to be discovered. What’s worse than the greats placing limitations on your ambitions is you doing that upon yourself.
You are never going to regret you couldn’t be one of them. You are only going to regret you could’ve become so much more and you never bothered to find out. Don’t quit because you will never be great. Quit because you are doing something for greatness.
Life is long enough: We regularly hear of people who quit their careers at their peak. From actors to sportspeople to CEO’s, these rad humans don’t wait until they get particularly bored or disillusioned or land better opportunities to call it quits. They quit when life’s giving them a chilled lemonade on a hot day because they want to have the feeling of climbing a tree and plucking the lemons themselves. Or something like that.
Story: Back in a zoo in Austria, a tiger would restlessly pace around inside its cage as humans pried for its attention outside.
The zoo officials realized this is no way to treat the majestic beast and built a large enclosure, pond and all, for the creature. The tiger was transferred into this enclosure and the zookeepers felt the fellow would be thrilled to explore his new villa. Instead, the tiger continued to pace about a small portion of the vast land; a portion that was the exact length of the cage. If you are wondering where I am going with this, here’s where:
You are the Tiger, King.
Most often, the problem with quitting is not that we quit too soon. It’s that we don’t quit, at all. One of the greatest privileges we have over our ancestors is our lifespan. A vast land, an enclosure defined only by our capacity to explore the world. Yet we pace about the same cage they inhabited, surviving. We live longer, but we aren’t doing any justice to it. Instead of making the most of the 25 extra years, we are living the same year 25 times.
You have fallen in love with the cage. If you get lucky and get to greatness in whatever you do, it will help to remember this: it’s okay to let go. It’s the highest form of quitting. You are also missing out on all the things you can now be terrible at.
I will not go so far as to say you must quit at your peak, but you must at least pause to see if your creativity, your passion, the thing you love has become the cage around you. If it has turned into a survival mechanism rather than the life-affirming experience it is meant to be.
Salvation: We quit ignorantly soon or unbearably late. We are saddled with what-if’s and only-if’s for the rest of our lives. Your life is a life-incarnate of all the things you are not. It’s why your life is fated to resemble regret. Growth is the ability to laugh at your destiny. To be bored without being boreable, to give your best despite knowing you will never be the best, to quit because your love is for living is larger than your identification with being loved, forever. It’s only when you let go can you begin to fall in love.